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Leduc County declares state of agricultural disaster amid wet conditions

A saturated field in Leduc County Thursday, July 23, 2020. Wes Rosa, Global News

Editor’s note: The mayor originally said the 35,000 acres of unseeded land would equal 3.5 million loaves of bread. However, Leduc County officials corrected that number to 350 million. This article has been updated to reflect the correct information. 

Due to excessively wet weather, Leduc County has declared a municipal state of agricultural disaster.

Council declared the disaster at a special council meeting Thursday morning. The county’s mayor said the excess moisture has compounded since last fall, leading to saturated soil conditions.

“We have a farmer who’s been farming in the Calmar area for over 40 years and he said this is the worst growing conditions that he’s experienced in his 40 years farming because of the condition of the soil in the field,” Tanni Doblanko said.

“It is super saturated, there’s no place for it to run and it’s just not soaking down anymore.”

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County officials said the amount of rain they received in May alone was more than double the long-term average. Some parts of the county have broken a 55-year record for spring precipitation, Doblanko said.

Read more: Alberta community declares agricultural disaster amid unsuccessful harvest

The wet conditions have translated to 35,000 acres of land not being seeded. As of July 9, approximately 65 per cent of barley crops, 50 per cent of canola crops and 35 per cent of wheat crops were estimated to be in poor condition in Leduc County. Poor crop conditions are defined as fields with less than 60 per cent of healthy plants.

The 35,000 acres that didn’t get seeded would equal 350 million loaves of bread, according to Leduc County officials.

“That’s a sobering thought that that is not coming into our food system,” Doblanko said.

“I think we all learned through COVID that food security and our food supply chain is really, really important to us. And right now we’re in a situation where we might not have enough to put into the beginning of the chain, which will affect consumers in the long run… This is about our food autonomy and how we support our cities.”

The mayor said declaring the state of agricultural disaster does a number of things, including sending a message to area farmers that they understand the conditions in which they’re working.

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“It also was a signal to both levels of government — federal and provincial — that there is an issue related to the food system currently happening here in Leduc County. And, finally, it allows farmers to access tax deferral programs in some cases and in other cases, access the insurance that they currently have earlier than they would have.”

Read more: Wet growing season prompts Leduc County to declare state of agricultural disaster

Doblanko said county officials hope to set up a meeting with the agriculture minister in hopes of discussing what can be done to support the farming community.

“We just need to have a little bit of a hand up, a little bit more than we’ve had before, and that’s what we’d be looking for.”

Leduc County last declared a state of agricultural disaster in September 2019.

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